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Irondequoit Square

August 7th, 2011

This Titus Avenue and Cooper Road in Irondequoit. Mike Nolan wants to redevelop these two square blocks just east of the House of Guitars.
Irondequoit is a pretty cool little town; surrounded by water on three sides and the City of Rochester to its south. Home of the HOG (House of Guitarsexternal link), Sea Breeze Amusement, and Parkside Diner & Whispering Pinesexternal link (officially the oldest miniature golf course in the USA). Of course there are also a few clouds that hang over this small-ish town of 52,000 soles – namely Medley Centerexternal link and a pretty tired looking retail corridor in East Ridge Road. But put all that aside for a moment. Here comes a smaller project that could have a much bigger impact per square foot… Irondequoit Square. Click the image below for a larger view of the plan…

A perspective drawing of proposed 'Irondequoit Square' at Titus and Cooper.

Aptly named because Irondequoit has no real ‘square’. No single destination where residents (or visitors) can go and spend a leisurely afternoon shopping, or dining, or people watching, or just gathering. This very short section of Titus between Hudson Ave and Cam’s Pizzeria is probably the closest thing to a “Main Street” this town has; and it ain’t no piazzaexternal link.

Mike Nolan, Irondequoit resident and real estate developer, has already purchased several of the properties along Titus and is now looking for public comment on the concept drawings. Currently there is only a Facebook pageexternal link for the project and not much written detail. But from the looks of the drawing Cooper Road would be punched thru to the south side of Titus with a new one-way traffic pattern, essentially replacing Union Park. Two- to four-story mixed-use structures would be built on either side of Cooper and along Titus right up to the House of Guitars. A wide cross-walk would connect the two sides of the development. Parking looks to be a mix of small surface lots and new on street spaces along Titus and Cooper. And at the center of the plan is a little urban plaza with what looks to be an outdoor stage built right into one of the buildings.

I reached out to Mr. Nolan today with some questions about the plan. As soon as I hear back I’ll post the info here.

Stay tuned.

An interview with the developer:

I spoke with Mike Nolan just a few minutes ago. Very nice guy and has an obvious passion for his town of Irondequoit and Rochester. I’m sure I didn’t get to ask everything I wanted to but here are the highlights:

  • Mr. Nolan is a machinist by trade and lives in Irondequoit. He’s 44.
  • This is concept is not his brainchild (the idea of something like this in this location has been on the table before). But he revived the idea last winter after CVS Pharmacy announced a plan to build a store at the site.
  • He expects the project to cost between $10-$12 million and says he will see the plan through to completion even if he has to fund it entirely himself. Says he’s doing it because it’s ‘the right thing to do’ for the area. He is looking for partners to help fund the project.
  • His company ‘I-Square LLC’ has purchased all but 4 of the necessary properties and is working to help relocate the 3 families/residents who currently live there.
  • All the existing businesses have at least verbally agreed to stay and move into the new development. Rents will be kept at current levels for an undisclosed period because Nolan wants to keep them.
  • Timeframe is not solid yet. Nolan hopes to gather public input and ideas, make adjustments to the plan, and then take it to the town board for approval. Demolition would start this winter (2012) at the earliest. Road/infrastructure construction in the Spring. Groundbreaking that summer with the first buildings going up on the east end of the site. His hope is that all phases will be complete within 3-4 years.
  • Nolan emphasized that this will be a true mixed-use project with a complimentary mix of day- and nighttime businesses including dining, entertainment, culture, SMALL shops. He added that professional office space is also a possibility.
  • Largest space would be 5,000-6,000 sq. ft. at the north east corner of the development (near Cam’s Pizzeria).
  • He says he wants to focus on urban and pedestrian-oriented design… storefronts built right up to wide sidewalks, bike racks, trash cans, narrow one-way streets, Wants the project to serve as a model for Irondequoit’s little-known master plan/design-guidelines.
  • He noted Irondequoit’s large elderly population when talking about street design and pedestrian safety. He also noted several pedestrian/auto accidents at the intersection of Cooper and Titus. This plan would restore a typical 4-way stop-light intersection at Cooper/Titus and remove the extra stop light at Union Park since Union would be removed entirely.
  • He stressed “walking” and believes the 3 bus routes that serve the area are beneficial to businesses and in mitigating auto traffic. If you notice there aren’t many more parking spaces than are at the current site.
  • Inspirations include Village Gate, Boston’s Sam Adam’s Brewery area, and some of NYC’s more eclectic neighborhoods.
  • He stressed the importance of building something once and building it to last. Quality of design and materials is paramount.
  • Buildings will have “architectural interest” with lots of stone/masonry.
  • Some ideas that he’s heard from the public so far include a small grocer/dairy shop, accommodating a town aquatic center or recreational/after-school center, accommodating a consolidated town library (currently Irondequoit has two separate libraries).
  • Other noteworthy aspects of the plan include a rooftop wine-bar and an outdoor stage for community performances.
  • The inner building is at least one story higher than the outer buildings to help draw people’s attention into the square.
  • He believes the fall of the Irondequoit Mall was accelerated because the operators settled for the wrong types of tenants. He believes ‘Big Lots’ for example would not be a good fit here.
  • He would not say specifically who or what retailers he’d try to attract as tenants.
  • When asked if he foresaw any obstacles to the project moving forward he replied with a confident “None.”

So, does any of that information change your opinions? For better or worse? Leave a comment and we’ll if we can’t get more answers.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, August 7th, 2011 at 8:03 pm and is filed under Rochester News, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

43 Responses to “Irondequoit Square”

  1. Jeff says:

    This would be awesome! I always tell people how great the sound of the East Irondequoit Lancer Marching Band would be within the walls of buildings lining a “main street” as they perform for Memorial Day and 4th of July parades.

  2. Mike says:

    Why is everyone salivating over this project?

    Has anyone considered what this will do to traffic in the already congested Cooper-Titus-Hudson coridor?

    What about this project providing just another place for teens to loiter after school and the trouble associated with that?

    This will certainly also draw a bad element from the one of the most crime ridden city neighborhoods. It’s right on the bus line!

    Are the police equipped to secure the area?

    Does Irondequoit really need more commercial development? We cannot fill the commercial space we already have!

    Do not be seduced by a fancy drawing. This needs to be thought out very carefully. This space could easily become another Irondequoit Mall, and I bet it will. That’s just what this town needs.

  3. You’re probably right Mike. You know what… when that new Subway sandwich shop went in on the other side of Hudson… I thought to myself, ‘now this is going to bring all those hoodlums here who ride the bus.’ And wouldn’t you know, just the other day I saw a couple of suspicious looking fellers hop off that #7 bus and sure enough… they ate a sandwich. I called my realtor right quick.

    Good grief 😛

  4. xanthm says:

    Could the shop ‘Simply NewYork’ the shop that sells made-in-NewYork products be at the center of the square. That shop is so Great yet so under-valued imho

  5. Brian says:

    In Mike’s defense – I think his single comment about drawing a “bad element” distracts from the overall point that this is just a bad idea. You cannot deny that his concerns are valid, even if not entirely politically correct.

  6. Anthony says:

    The concept is great. It would be very nice to somehow create a mini-Park ave atmosphere. I do belive traffic could be a concern and that many streets will be used as cut throughs. I believe there should be an effort formed with the Hudson-Titus plaza to attempt to attract quality businesses, and avoid the dollar store mentality just to fill space.

  7. Aponte says:

    What would you consider “a couple of suspicious looking fellers hop off that #7 bus…” it ended with “they ate a sandwich”. What was so wrong about that? And what was your realtor supposed to do?

  8. CJ Boyer says:

    Aponte – I can’t blame you. It’s difficult to recognize irony in a post. My question – a number of the buildings in the drawing are show as two stories. What is the plan for the second story? Small downtowns that DO have a square are struggling with the best way to see those second story spaces used.

  9. @Aponte, I was responding to Mike’s comment (see comment #2).

    There were NO “suspicious looking fellers”. I was being facetious in an effort to highlight the paranoia and inappropriateness of comment #2.

    In all seriousness, if everyone subscribed to Mike’s line of thinking nothing would ever get built. Quite the opposite in fact; we’d allow our cities to deteriorate and raze everything to the ground much like we did in the 1950’s-70’s.

    Any good plan must work out concerns like security and traffic. These are important. But comment #2 tosses the baby out with the bathwater before the idea even gets off the ground. I have no tolerance for that sort of attitude.

    And CJ, if I can make contact with Mr. Nolan I will ask him about the upper floors. We did learn today that all the businesses that are in the existing buildings will be staying. The project is expected to be built in phases.

  10. Mike says:

    Paranoia… Exactly… That’s what killed Irondequoit mall. It’s not right, but it’s a documented fact.

    Let’s get away from that for one minute because I fear my original comment has created a disproportionate distraction away from the real issue.

    Irondequoit is littered with vacant commercial space. It has become sort of what we are known for throughout the Monroe county. Fill that space first, then build this monster. That’s called plain simple responsibility. Doing otherwise makes no sense to me. This is urban sprawl and it is what killed downtown.

    The Cooper-Titus-Hudson corridor is a known traffic snarl. This will do nothing to fix that, and in fact it will likely make it much worse.

    The area looks fairly enclosed to me. Would you want to walk through there after business hours? I don’t think I would.

    I am not “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”, I am just counter-acting the equally blind exhilaration that I so often hear over this project.

    Really, let’s stop and think about this.

  11. @Mike, I like a healthy dose of skepticism as much as the next guy and I’m not suggesting that we blindly accept a plan at first glimpse of a drawing. Likewise let’s not jump to the conclusion that building a row of storefronts is going to attract a some kind of crime wave.

    The one issue you raise which I’d share with you would be traffic. And not because of congestion – rather pedestrian safety, which is currently a problem. Congestion is not. But now here’s an opportunity to address pedestrian access and walkability.

    From my conversation with Mr. Nolan just a few minutes ago I get a strong impression that this will be priority #1. I’ll elaborate shortly.

  12. I spoke with Mr. Nolan tonight. He provided answers to many questions. Many questions still to be answered… but you can read the highlights here.

  13. Jim says:

    I own Parkside Diner and also live in Irondequoit. I think this is such a good idea.It is a very depressed looking property and is in great despair. This project would bring more people into our community to shop,eat, and hopefully explore more of the town and what it has to offer.I wish Mr. Nolan the best of luck and hope this project moves foward.

  14. Otto says:

    I like the idea of new development, I just hate new developments that try to look like older buildings and fail. Instead of building buildings that “sort of” look old, or exaggerate features, why not follow actual plans and styling cues from the older architecture of Rochester? Make me believe that these buildings have been in Irondequoit for a 100 years or more, make it feel like it belongs in the neighborhood. Those older structures and designs worked for a reason. Don’t just plop some modern mixed-use retail in here with fake facades and “antique” streetlamps and expect it to function like a naturally-developed commercial district would.

  15. Chris says:

    Maybe another roundabout at Cooper and Titus – with a soithern spur into the square – would alleviate congestion and improve traffic flow. Pedestrian bridge might make things safer, and cost is justifiable given proximity to high school.
    Tenants in square would have to inclube some known, commercially viable businesses – Starbucks are you listening? – not just a bunch of quaint stores that seem nice but no one ever spends money at.
    Overall, great idea.

  16. Jean says:

    I am a newcomer to the area. It’s very exciting to hear about plans to help the area become more community centric. My concern is that once you put the control over a large amount of real estate in the hands of one person or organization, then it is no longer “community.” Before I got behind this plan, I would want to have a community committee comprised of citizens…business and nonbusiness owners…permanently in charge. For something like this that can make or break a community, and is so central to the town’s health, you cannot put the control in the hands of one person or organization.

  17. Mike says:

    Irondequoit Square Mall… Let’s call this what it is.

  18. Mike says:

    …And a wine bar? Really? Overlooking a busy intersection and a parking lot?

    Let’s look at Pier 45, an upscale restaurant with a rooftop bar (for three months out of the year). It overlooks a beautiful lake and we all see how well that is doing. It needs subsidies from the city to survive.

    This is no community center. If Mr. Nolan really cared about the community, then he would build a public park. This is about opportunity and money. I can’t say I blame him.

    Contrary to what has been implied in the local media, Mr. Nolan did not come in on a white horse and save us all from the CVS drugstore. The community prevented that from happening.

  19. @Mike, couple of things… Who pays to build and maintain a park? How much revenue does a park generate?

    Also, you mentioned earlier that this is suburban sprawl. Really? It’s infill development about 3.5 miles from the center of downtown Rochester. Irondequoit doesn’t have the geography to sprawl anywhere.

    You don’t have to answer this if you don’t want, but do you live in Irondequoit?

    @Jean, I like the idea of a community board. Nolan did mention community ownership as one of his goals for the project.

  20. Chris says:

    @Mike, why so pessimistic? – it’s not like Mr. Nolan is asking to build a casino/brothel complex with a direct connection to the 104 expressway! Nonetheless it might be a good idea if, instead of one developer controlling the project, there was a cooperative of investors. These people, would of course have to put their money where their mouthes are. And I hope this progressive idea doesn’t face the same misplaced opposition as the Verizon cell tower.
    Still, it is very important to have a plan in place to address traffic congestion and pedestrian safety – the NYS DOT should probably be involved from the start.
    It is critical to the future of Irondequoit to keep the town vibrant and attract young professionals. I think the square is a risk worth taking.

  21. Janet says:

    I love the idea of doing something positive to make our town appealing. If we continue to let it go to ruin, continue to add more cheap discount stores (we have enough!!!), and continue to leave because of the “bad element” then we will lose our lovely town. We need to build it up not knock it down. We have a great school system and fair-priced homes. And let’s not forget the water so nearby!!! Beautiful scenery and cool breezes! Love the idea of a GOOD restaurant. We need one in the area besides Pasta Villa!!!
    Let’s rally West Irondequoiters!!!!!!!!!!

  22. Adrian says:

    All commercial property is not equal. The fact that some commercial property is vacant in the middle of a strip mall on a highway doesn’t mean that there would be any difficulty renting commercial spaces in a Village Gate-type environment.

  23. Matt says:

    Wow, where to begin. This is a really excellent development, and so I think it’s important to point out what it does right, what it could do better, and then maybe address some of the concerns voiced above.

    What this does right:
    1.) Narrow streets conducive to pedestrian safety.
    2.) Buildings sited with the human element (pedestrians) in mind, and not cars.
    3.) Additional density in a place that could use it.
    4.) Density in the area will help support the plan.
    5.) Plans for attractive architecture (certainly this might not happen, but we’ll see).

    What this does wrong (and that should be improved):
    1.) All parking should be parallel on the street. This adds pedestrian safety.
    2.) Roads should become through streets to existing parking lot for Irondequoit Village Apts.
    3.) Parking should be shared with apartments to allow for higher utilization throughout the day. This will allow for the central parking lot in the scheme to become a town square type park as opposed to a sea of cars.
    4.) Building heights should all be increased by a floor with apartments added.
    5.) Work with RGRTA to build an attractive bus stop on Titus Ave. to complement the site.

    Now, as for the concerns above. The density in the development and the 24/7-ness of it is what will prevent this from becoming dangerous. On top of that, what, exactly, is the problem with loitering? Because everyone doesn’t have their own single family home to go back to at night, they are somehow deprived of outdoor space? People loiter in NYC without issue all the time. The view that loitering should be eliminated is myopic at best and racist at worst. Having people around, Jane Jacobs’s “eyes on the street” is what keeps us safe, not barren wastelands. You know what a lack of loitering looks like? It looks like Xerox Plaza or Genesee Crossroads Park. Most people here probably don’t even know what they look like, because they’ve never been there. If they had, those places wouldn’t be so barren. Many people cry out for more parks, but Rochester is now littered with tiny little pocket parks. This is a good thing only in a vacuum. Without people, density, near these places, they sit sad and unused. If all we build are single family homes, why bother with parks anyway? That’s your backyard. And thus we come full circle. Besides, putting points of density into a much closer orbit around Rochester will help immensely when it comes to rebuilding the network of streetcars that existed befor cheap motoring.

  24. Mike says:

    I could respond to the questions for me above. I could address all of the counterpoints made. I could elaborate on points which are more aligned with my perspective. Yet I have come to the realization that this is not an effective forum to carry on such an extensive discussion.

    Let me just say this in my final posting here:

    1) I do believe that Irondequoit needs a town center. Not every town does have one, by the way. We remain envious of those which do.

    2) I do believe that the area in question needs a makeover, and that it might be a good location for a town center.

    3) I do not believe that a town center should come in the form of a mall, which is what this proposal amounts to. Plain and simple.

    4) I am not comfortable with one person having such a high impact on the welfare of, and ultimate perception of Irondequoit.
    Jean hit the nail on the head by saying, “My concern is that once you put the control over a large amount of real estate in the hands of one person or organization, then it is no longer “community.” Exactly!

    I look forward to continuing this debate in a more proper forum and in the town meetings which I am sure to follow.

  25. John says:

    Just wondering if any thought has been given to making the Cooper Rd. Ext. a true “pedestrian plaza” (i.e. no cars permitted)? Not sure about the impact (positive or negative) this would have on businesses within the development, but there seem to be many areas where this type of pedestrian area seems to work.

  26. @John, good idea. I asked Mike Nolan what he thought and he repsonded:

    “We had discussed this option early in the planning. We ended up going with a two-way road with reduced width at the ends. This allows for the area to closed to vehicles just for special events for now. The primary objection to pedestrian only road was that the only other two roads leading to our parking could not efficiently handle all of the traffic flow.”

    He also mentioned that the House of Guitars would still need to have use of its parking lot on that side, which could be difficult without access on Cooper.

    But I still like the idea of a pedestrian-only street. Maybe something could be worked out.

  27. Mike says:

    >He also mentioned that the House
    >of Guitars would still need to have
    >use of its parking lot on that side

    Will the stage in the parking lot be reserved exclusively for “community performances” or will the HOG now be able to stage live events there now too?

    It is not unusual for the HOG to host “in-store” performances and I fear these would only grow to a size and decibel scale not currently envisioned by the surrounding community.

  28. ITT Tech Virtual Library…

    Rochester Subway : Irondequoit Square…

  29. As a former resident of Irondequoit, I heartily support this plan & idea. I-Square WILL become the central focus of the area: meet, greet, shop, hang-out, etc. The spot is perfect. And traffic can always be managed – with a site as popular as this would be, the town planners will have to smart about traffic logistics. Pedestrians should have highest priority in this area & traffic must yield to I-Town’s residents. In California (where I now live), pedestrians come first, not cars. Many of the local cities up here in Northern CA close down a “main street” area for only 1 night per week during the summer (no cars, no bikes, only people) => farmer’s markets, food vendors, etc. This idea could work here too.

    Nothing could be more fun than walking up to I-Square for an evening’s activity. Chances are real good you’ll see most of your neighbors there anyway. Please make sure “Murph’s” stays put… that’ll draw me back for multiple visits for sure!

  30. Jerry says:

    Has anybody looked at the drop of real estate sales in Irondequoit. Here is a little clue for Mike. The people that leave Irondequoit do so because the Town has nothing anymore to offer except for a great school district. The “traffic jam” at that intersection is nothing for anybody that has ever ventured out of this town. We should be thankful that any developer is showing interest in this town. We need more of this development and less discount shopping. My word of advice for anybody that opposes this project would be to travel outside Irondequoit and looks what makes the other towns great.

  31. Janet says:

    I hope this idea inspires some sort of improvement. This town needs a face lift for sure. Love the idea of the Made In New York store being a part of this plan! We need GOOD retail and GOOD food establishments to flourish. People are leaving the town and it seems like their replacements just don’t care much about their property. Irondequoit natives take pride in their town and would love to see it grow and improve rather than die a slow death which it seems to be doing now. Take a look at the number of homes for sale. Take a look at the condition of some properties. It worries me to see what this town will be like in 10 years if things don’t change now!

  32. Mike says:

    @ Jerry – Your insinuation that that I don’t already have “a clue” is evidence that you simply do not know how to carry on a debate without resorting to insults. That’s OK. I will let your comment stand for itself.

    >Has anybody looked at the drop of real estate
    >sales in Irondequoit(?)

    I believe you are referring to a national trend, which Irondequoit is more or less following. So whatever point you are making here is null.

    You people are all being seduced by the dream that Mike Nolan is selling you. Wake up.

    Sure it would be great if the fantasies you are being told can all come true, actually would. But they won’t. And we will all be left to pick up the pieces.

    I’d love to see an upscale restaurant with a roof top wine bar (as Mike Nolan is pitching) actually succeed, but I am also enough of a realist to know that it won’t. And when a the restaurant fails, and Mr. Nolan decides to put in a McDonalds, you will all be crying (as will I).

    >…travel outside Irondequoit and (look) what
    > makes the other towns great.

    I believe the answer is a canal and residents with higher median incomes.

    Now please no more insults. I already said I was done posting here.

  33. Janet says:

    Actually I think the price of homes in W Iron have increased-not dropped. I say that because I have been repeatedly and pleasantly surprised at the price of some homes in my area that have sold within the past year. The town has a wide range of income-some VERY high!! Yes money always helps but just because you may not have a high income does not mean you don’t like and want a NICE town!! Check out E. Rochester- not an affluent town but just look at their retail area and how that has improved over the years. Also Brockport, Spencerport, to name a few. Remember “if you build it they will come!” Our school district has spent $$$ to for improvements, inside and out, now let’s improve the looks of our town center!! Let’s be positive!!

  34. Mittens says:

    That sounds AWESOME! We need something like this downtown.

  35. диеты для вас…

    […]RochesterSubway.com : Irondequoit Square[…]…

  36. janet says:

    I am sorry to hear people worrying about the “bad element” coming to ruin the new plan. The nice things we have all around seem to be just fine! Maybe having a NICER town will encourage ALL of the residents and visitors to take pride and help keep it nice! Let’s think positive folks!!

  37. I-SQUARE UPDATE: Many people have been asking “When are you going to start the roadwork?” We have two issues that have remained unsolved with the Town of Irondequoit and unfortunately deadlines have passed. This makes it impossible to open Bakers Park this year. We hope that the town will resolve these issues as soon as possible. We have asked to be on the agenda for both the town board workshop (9/12) and regular town board meeting (9/18) so that we can salvage what remains of this construction season.

    Leslie DiCesare
    I-Square Project Coordinator

  38. Brian says:

    You hope that the *town will resolve these issues? You are not involved in the resolution process?

  39. Article in today’s D&C says both sides are waiting for each other. Sounds like the Nolan’s and the Town need to have a chat.

  40. Sherrie Lynch says:

    As a side note, while my daughter took karate classes in a nearby building, I got to watch the progress of the demolition and construction of I-square. During the demo I was able to salvage approx 12 antique bottles that were intact! Old beer and apothecary mostly-really neat stuff. Would love to know what was there years ago.

  41. So It’s been a while, but I was up there taking photos in September, and I guess I’m really underwhelmed so far. I should get them into a flickr album and link here. Surely someone could do a more recent update than I, but just for laughs, here it was in September: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/sets/72157649414052150/

  42. Ruth Nederlk says:

    Good luck guys. Always some one is negative about something. There is much traffic much trouble everyplace you look today. All we need in these situations is parents to carry a big stick and teach their children right from wrong. and stick with it. Don’t Spare the Rod and Spoil the child.

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